Thursday, June 26, 2014

Clive Palmer will help axe carbon tax but courts Al Gore in push for ETS

Clive Palmer has revealed his party will vote to stop the Abbott Government axing key climate change bodies and will only back the repeal of the carbon tax if lower power prices for consumers are guaranteed.

Flanked by climate change campaigner and former US vice-president Al Gore, Mr Palmer announced his Palmer United Party would vote against the Government's bid to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Renewable Energy Target and the Climate Change Authority.

The Queensland MP says he is standing by an election promise to support efforts to get rid of the carbon tax but with a significant caveat.

"True to our promises to the Australian people at the last election, Palmer United senators will vote in the Senate to abolish the carbon tax," he said.

"In doing so, Palmer United senators will move an amendment that all producers of energy are required by law, not by choice, to pass on to all consumers of energy the savings from the repeal of the carbon tax."

It is not clear how such a condition could be imposed on companies by the Parliament.

Axing the carbon tax was the major campaign platform and election promise for Tony Abbott during last year's election.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt called a press conference shortly after Mr Palmer's announcement, to hail the "signature" decision to back the carbon tax repeal bill.

He said he was "relaxed" about the PUP leader's plans and appeared willing to meet Mr Palmer's demands on power prices.

"In terms of the question as to whether or not the full cost savings will be passed through to families, there are already guarantees in the legislation, however, we are willing to provide additional guarantees and to work with Mr Palmer and the Palmer United Party on any further legislative amendments," he said.

As the largest voting bloc on the new micro-party cross bench, PUP will hold the balance of power when the Senate changes over next Tuesday.


TWU members forced to join super fund that paid fees to top officials, royal commission told

The Transport Workers Union forced its members to join the industry superannuation fund which paid its directors, including senior union officials, $200,000 in fees each year, the royal commission into trade unions has heard.

The royal commission was told this conduct raised a potential conflict of interest.

The hearing in Perth on Monday was told that it was a requirement of enterprise bargaining agreements struck in 2011 and 2013 that TWU members join the fund.

Jeremy Stoljar, counsel assisting the royal commission into trade union governance and corruption, said four of the nine directors of TWU Super were among the most senior officials of the union.

The head of the negotiating team for the TWU enterprise agreements of 2011 and 2013 was Michael Kaine, an alternate director for the board of TWU Super.

Mr Stoljar said TWU Super was paying the TWU about $200,000 in directors' fees each year, about $500,000 in reimbursement for the salaries and expenses of a number of superannuation liaison officers employed by the TWU and a further $100,000 in sponsorship.

He said evidence to come before the commission would give rise to potential conflict of interest issues.

Mr Stoljar said TWU officials had a duty to get the best superannuation deal for employees, but members including Western Australian truck driver Paul Bracegirdle had complained they were given no choice in which fund they could join.

Mr Bracegirdle, 48, told the commission on Monday that after he began working for Toll Holdings he discovered in 2005 that it was compulsory for his superannuation contributions to be paid to TWU Super.

In his evidence, Mr Bracegirdle said he asked a union delegate in 2009 whether he could choose his own super fund and was told no.

After visiting his local federal member, Stephen Smith, in Perth, Mr Bracegirdle received a letter from Chris Bowen, the minister for superannuation at the time, confirming his only choice of super fund was TWU Super if it was part of an enterprise bargaining agreement.

The commission heard that former TWU Western Australian branch secretary Jim McGiveron allegedly told Mr Bracegirdle to ''eff off'' when he asked about the superannuation fund in August last year.

After years of persistence, Mr Bracegirdle finally joined the fund of his choice because in the 2013 enterprise agreement there was a three-month window of opportunity for employees to nominate a different fund.

"Now that window has closed, we're back to square one right now," he said in a sworn statement.

A spokesman for the Transport Workers Union said superannuation outcomes for members are better when they are achieved through collective bargaining.

''Decades of experience has shown that the retirement savings of members are maximised through the use of not-for-profit industry funds, rather than being eroded by the excess fees and charges imposed by the big banks,'' the spokesman said. ''Industry super funds have consistently outperformed their retail rivals.''


Unrepresentative circus coming to the Senate

AT the end of this week, the current moderately sane Senate will sit for the last time.  When next it sits — next month — the Senate will be a ­circus unmatched in Australian parliamentary history.

Former PM Paul Keating’s oft-quoted observation that it was “unrepresentative swill” will be more than justified.

This situation has been created by the rise of minor and micro parties achieving some success through the clever ­manipulation of preferences.

Thus we see individuals with little or negligible popular support taking senate seats on the basis of preference deals brokered between parties with no shared values.

While the major parties will usher in a few new senators — some smart, some not so bright — the loud-mouthed Queensland self-promoter Clive Palmer will be welcoming his team of three Palmer United Party senators, led by former rugby league player Glenn Lazarus.

Palmer, who can occasionally be viewed slumped in the Lower House, will call the shots for fellow Queenslander Lazarus, Western Australian Zhenya (Dio) Wang and Tasmanian Jacqui Lambie, and, at the moment, anyway, Motoring Enthusiasts party senator Ricky Muir. Lazarus, whom Palmer nominated as PUP’s leader in the Senate may actually say something of substance when he takes his seat, but so far he has been silent about PUP and its intentions.

Wang has said he agrees with everything Palmer says (much like Opposition leader Bill Shorten rushed to agree with everything Julia Gillard said, even when he didn’t know what she said) and Lambie has said too much already, revealing a profound ignorance of the topics she has tackled.

Veteran broadcaster Mike Willesee needed no tricks to persuade the PUPs to show how ill-equipped they are for parliamentary office when he interviewed them recently.

Ringmaster Palmer has barely been unable to keep his clowns in order to date, and the odds are that whatever instructions he can give while he is ­recumbent in the House will doubtless be poorly understood by the time they reach his minions in the Senate.

The government has given the Leader of the House Christopher Pyne and Senate Leader Eric Abetz charge of all the cross-benchers but they do not appear at all minded to make special efforts to peel the PUPpies from Clive’s kennel.

The government seems to be prepared to wait until they stray of their own volition — certainly none of the PUPpies has shown the confidence to speak with the government unless Palmer is present.

Lazarus and Wang will probably stay close to Palmer as they have shown no independence of thought so far.

Lambie, a former army corporal who has variously worked for Labor and been a member of the Liberal Party, is at best a loose cannon. She could go anywhere.

Palmer, possibly the least politic individual to self-finance a party into parliament, demonstrated his knuckle-headedness on his ­arrival in Canberra by ­demanding (with threats) the government give party status to his lacklustre band and the extra staff that groups which qualify for party status are ­eligible for, even though PUP did not have sufficient elected members (five) to meet the House rules.

If the extra staff are needed for PUP, and quite obviously, the PUPpies have shown they aren’t up to the task of understanding the processes government without assistance, Palmer might have inveigled Muir into dumping his handful of Motoring Enthusiasts and joining the PUP litter, giving them the critical mass needed to get extra staffers.

Had Palmer not been so brash, it is possible the government may have spoken quietly to independent senator Nick Xenophon and DLP senator John Madigan and brought about some staffing changes.

Having publicly broadcast his ­demand, Palmer ensured that no party — and certainly not the government — would permit itself to be seen breaching the rules to accommodate his bullying demands in return for some legislative trade-offs.

The government will be able to work more coherently with Family First’s senator-elect Bob Day and incoming independent David Leyon-hjelm as they are patently better equipped intellectually for the demands of office.

The Greens, who hope to win some support from Muir, at least, are still fighting internal battles.

Greens Leader Christine Milne was able to keep the simmering challenge from Melbourne MP Adam Bandt at bay in the aftermath of the lift in support at the disputed WA senate election, but Bandt supporters are now saying that boost was largely a protest vote and not reflective of any personal support for Milne.

Whether any of the PUP senators are capable of meeting the demands of the six-year senate term is another consideration.


Next year’s Anzac Day parades should be colourful affairs, what with the first appearance from our brave fighting boys in the 1st Disability Pension Infantry

Khaled Sharrouf lived on a disability pension in Sydney, but he’s well enough to plan terrorist attacks here and to wage jihad in Syria and Iraq:

These welfare Wahhabis and their holy bludger brigades are currently sweeping through Iraq, laying waste to civilians and soldiers alike in a bid to create some kind of Islamic purity state.

Good luck with that. Let’s assume, for the sake of it, that ISIS (Impaired and Subsidised Islamic Soldiers) achieves its aim of overthrowing governments in Iraq and Syria. What happens next? Well, nothing. Nothing at all. These blokes can’t work, and they’ve got the official medical documents to prove it.

If post-war welfare systems in Iraq and Syria turn out to be anything like Australia’s, they’ll be flooded with compensation claims from every Tom, Dick and Hudhaifah Karim al-Rashid presently murdering their terrified co-religionists.

It says something about just how low the bar is set for disability payments in Australia that people qualify as unable to work even though they are capable of living – indeed, thriving – in war zones.

These must be the only combat veterans in history who arrived at the war on crutches and were able to walk afterwards. Or perhaps we’re witnessing authentic religious miracles; behold Habib, who defied medical science by rising from his sick bed (his fully sick bed) to slaughter other Muslims.

Unfortunately for the future economy of their great Islamic state, however, killing is about all these chaps can do. Thanks to Facebook, we’re already seeing signs of how things might be under the rule of the bludjahideen. Sure, they’re great at putting bullets in the back of captured Iraqi soldiers’ heads. But they clearly can’t find any laborers to bury the bodies.

Life in the compo caliphate won’t be much fun within a generation or two, once everybody is signed up for free government cash. Welfare only works when there are workers. It’ll be a little like Tasmania, except with a slightly less ridiculous electoral system.


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